Do you really think that you have your cat’s ashes after cremation?

You may be fooling yourself. You quite probably are if you think that you have your cat’s ashes in an urn on the mantelpiece. Further, you might think that there is some DNA of your cat in those ashes. That may well not be the case. It should be said from the outset that pure ashes do not contain the DNA of your beloved, cremated cat. Only in bone fragments and teeth can DNA be detected. Are these present in the ashes?

If there are no bone fragments or teeth then your connection between yourself and the ashes are entirely emotional. There is no physical connection. The ashes represent your beloved departed cat in a symbolic way. It could be worse.

An important point to make is that there’s a big difference between what is described as “an individual cremation” and “a private cremation”. I am referring to the USA. The language used is very similar and therefore it is easy to fudge the difference. I think in the UK the word “individual” means the same as “private”. But having read a comment from a person who runs a pet crematorium in the USA, there is a difference in that country it seems to me between the words “private” and “individual” in this context. Also when the ashes are white, a private cremation is indicated while grey ashes indicates a communal cremation.

You may have heard your veterinarian or a crematory (“crematorium in the UK) employee using the phrase “individual cremation”. In the US (as I understand it) this does not mean that your cat will be placed in an oven by him/herself and then cremated. It means that a communal cremation takes place where pets are laid out in the oven with space between them; as opposed to a pile of bodies in the oven. I suppose, in theory, such a cremation does allow a cat owner to receive the identifiable ashes of their cat. But do you receive a scorched, metal ID tag with the ashes? The only certain way that you can receive your cat’s ashes is to request a private cremation and moreover it is much more sensible to attend at the crematorium and requested it yourself. There is nothing stopping that. Watch the whole process from start to end.

It is unwise to employ your veterinarian to deal with a so-called “private cremation” if you want certainties. This is because you don’t know what goes on between your veterinarian and the pet crematorium with whom they contract. There is money involved obviously. The veterinarian will probably take a commission and the pet crematorium will make as much money as they can which will encourage them to take shortcuts. Another reason why they will be encouraged to take shortcuts is because ashes are ashes. Nobody can tell the difference between one set of ashes and another and you can’t do a DNA test and won’t want to anyway. Therefore crematoriums know that they can get away with it. They know they can cut corners. They know they can commit fraud in fact. That may be a strong word but on occasions it will be an appropriate word.

The sort of prices that people pay to have their cat cremated are very low when you consider that it takes a number of hours to cremate a pet and therefore if every pet was cremated privately (with only one animal in the oven at one time) the costs would rise significantly and become untenable for most clients. The crematorium would probably become unviable as a business. I paid for a private cremation and it cost me about £150 in the UK and I attended the entire process.

I suspect that a lot of people are unwilling to pay that sort of money to ensure that they receive the absolutely identifiable ashes of their dearly beloved cat. But unless you know for sure that they are your cat’s ashes there is not much point in putting them in an urn and placing the urn on the mantelpiece in your home unless you are happy to have a symbol upon and towards which you can direct your emotions.

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14 thoughts on “Do you really think that you have your cat’s ashes after cremation?”

  1. you people are very simple minded ,your mind set is something a dr shoud study,i guess you feel the same about closed caskets sorry if someone in your family had this typ of service just think you have the rest of your life to think where you are going to end up ( jurk)

  2. This worries me. Since our vets started offering pet cremation, I had had our darling cats cremated. i have requested and paid for individual cremation. The vets have used two different companies in the time I have known of this service. The first company they used, did not take instruction or corpses directly from owners, they only did business directly with the vets.

    I have paid £180 pounds for this service and been given ashes that are a white/grey in a little wooden casket. The casket has a small brass plate screwed on to it, with the beloved cat’s name inscribed.

    For the first cremation, I was so worried about what was happening once my dear old girl of 19 was pts. I found out the name of the business who was offering the service and rang them.

    The lady who answered assured me that my sweet old girl would be going into a small oven (they had individual small cremators and larger ones for dogs, even one for horses) and there was no way that she would get mixed up with other pets.

    I have read in horror that some Pet Cremation services just bung all the beloved pets into one oven and burn the lot in one go. One report, where the owner of the service was prosecuted for fraud, just chucked the bodies of these poor animals into a field behind her business property. Many decayed bodies were found as evidence.

    I sometimes wonder about the integrity of our vets. They obviously receive some sort of financial benefit from selling this service or they would not do it. I wonder if they have charged me for individual cremation but actually, the bodies of my dear little furry family members have just been slung into an oven en masse, with no respect at all.

    Michael, how did you manage to arrange the cremation yourself and attend it? I would be very interested to know as I have dreaded the next time I have had to say goodbye to one of my cats for the obvious reasons, and also that, since our vets became very large (3 branches now, including a hospital facility and a commercial manager) they may be selling their clients and their carers short.

    Thank you if you can tell us. I quite understand if you do not wish to.

    1. Hi, I rang up the nearest pet cremation business and dealt with them direct asking for an individual cremation that I insisted I watched throughout. The guy agreed so I took my cat’s body down there. I collected her from the vet. That’s it.

    2. “The first company they used, did not take instruction or corpses directly from owners, they only did business directly with the vets.”

      For me, being a cynical old man, this smacks of fraud. Any pet cremation business worth their salt should do business with pet owners direct. Why not? It is good business. To not do this tells me that they can’t be trusted but maybe this is just me being too suspicious and untrusting.

  3. I made an appointment for a private cremation for my cat. It was more expensive but I was able to be there from beginning to end, and I watched him put my cat’s ashes in the little box. I plan to do the same for my other cats when it’s time.

    1. Great job, Pam. You did what I would do. In fact you did what I have done in the past. It is the only way to be sure. Well done.

  4. I have an unpopular perspective. Having ashes in a container or containers from my beloved, deceased pets have no emotional content for me. I don’t even want to keep ashes from a beloved friend or relative.

    What has more meaning for me are photographs and videos of them while living.

    I don’t visit grave sites either, because I don’t believe in talking to ashes or bones. The one I loved isn’t there. They no longer exist in 3D reality. The rest is unknown.

    I realize that many people may think I’m cold hearted, but I know that’s not true. I share my emotions with the living, and let go when they have “let go”.

  5. I think I have a dozen pretty little boxes with their names on them and a pawprint in clay. Over 20 years I’ve paid an average of $150 for it all. I’ve never been confident that there weren’t fraudulent corners cut, and have suspected it outright. It’s a very emotional thing and I would LOVE to see people get busted for perpetrating this fraud. I’d also like to see a federal law passed that also requires these facilities to do due dilligence (scanning for chips, paper trailing) to identify these little family members positively.

  6. Different crematoriums have different types of ovens to do the job and different protocols. If it matters to you, ask them. I do cat rescue and some years ago, I had several furangels whose remains were waiting in the freezer to be cremated. The oven at this particular crematorium was in a room about the size of a one-car garage with a roll-up door. There was a grate over the fire-generating furnace and large dogs or other large animals were placed on the grate, but smaller dogs and cats or other small animals were put in separate stainless steel trays and set on the cement floor with a “map” made of who was placed where. The owner had agreed to give me a reduced “group” rate and I helped with the process, which took several hours for the furnace to heat up and then cool off afterwards before the room could be entered. The ashes/bones/teeth remaining intact in each tray were then placed, one at a time, in a centrifuge and spun down, then put into individual plastic baggies/containers. The resulting “powder” was a gray color. I had five furangels cremated that day — a chicken, a rabbit and three cats. A quantity of larger dogs from a nearby animal shelter had been placed on the furnace grate all together.

    Since then I have had other cats individually cremated at a crematorium attached to a vet clinic that had a small, kiln-type oven that was large enough to accomodate 2-3 average size cats or a medium sized dog. I also “witnessed” (I was able to place the cats in the oven, myself) those cremations but was not able to assist with their removal from the oven afterwards, so don’t know what color their “ashes” were. They were returned to me in individual pottery “urns” which were hand-crafted by the company doing the cremation; pawprint tiles were also made and I was able to witness that being done. This company offered a group rate if you wanted more than one cat cremated together and one could also opt for non-individual cremation where the ashes of many would be scattered in an adjacent forest.

    It seems that “one size fits all” does not apply to cremation of pets and if one really wants to know how it is done, then you should ask the company doing the cremation what type of process and procedure they employ so you aren’t left wondering.

  7. Here is one result from a blog in 2010!!
    For euthanasia and cremation. Shameful!!
    Office visit $98

    IV catheter: $75

    IV sedation: $42

    IV euthanasia solution: $80

    Private cremation: $350 (ashes boxed in a cardboard container)

    Total: $645

    1. OMG. I got it done cheap but I supervised everything. That is a massive price. I’ll be cynical and say it’s not even certain the ashes were those of the person’s pet.

      1. That’s definitely at the high end. For people that need to spend a lot of money before they’re satisfied, I guess. ;-s
        About a decade ago, my low-cost vet was charging $110 for a cat cremation. Ashes of who knows whose pet were returned in a wooden box by the service provider.
        Since I do rescue, the money is better spent on the living. My sanctuary cats get ‘green burials’. I did cremate two of my dogs and spread their ashes on the briar roses. Hopefully, some of those ashes were actually theirs.

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